of the mind which presents itself so dis- course of conduct. But although all these tinctly and is so easily separable from faculties may be, and indeed must someothers as the faculty of memory. And times be, conceived and regarded as yet memory cannot always reproduce its separate, they all more or less involve treasures without an effort of the will, each other; and in the great hierarchy of nor, sometimes, without many artificial powers, the highest and noblest seem alexpedients of reason to help it in retracing ways to be built upon the foundations of the old familiar lines. Neither is there those which stand below. Memory is any faculty more absolutely necessary the indispensable servant of them all. than memory to the working of every Reflection is ever turning the mind inother. Without memory there could not wards on itself. The logical faculty is be any reason, nor any reflection, nor any ever rushing to its own conclusions as conscience. In this respect all the higher necessary consequences of the elementary faculties of the human mind are much axioms from which it starts, and which more inseparably blended and united in are to it the objects of direct and intuitive their operation than those lower faculties apprehension. The moral sense is ever which are connected with bodily sensa. passing its judgments upon the conduct tion. These lower faculties are indeed of others and of ourselves; whilst the also parts of one whole, are connected will is ever present to set cach and all to with a common centre, and can all be their proper work. And the proper work paralyzed when that centre is affected. of every faculty is to see some special But in their ordinary activities their kind of relation or some special quality in spheres of action seem widely different, things which other faculties have .not and each of them can be, and often is, been formed to see. But although these seen in apparently solitary and indepen. qualities in things are in themselves dent action. Sight and taste and touch separate and distinct, it does not at all and hearing are all very different from follow that the separate organs of the each other so separaté indeed that the mind, by which they are severally apprelanguage of the one can hardly be trans- hended, can ever work without each lated into the language of the other. But other's help: The sense of logical neces: when from these lower faculties, which sity is clearly different from the sense of are connected with separate and visible moral obligation. But yet as reason canorgans of the body, and which we possess not work without the help of memory, so in common with the brutęs, we ascend to neither can the moral sense work without the great central group of higher and the help of reason. And the elements more spiritual faculties which are peculiar which reason has to work on in presentto man, we soon find that their unity is ing different actions to the judginent of more absolute, and their interdependence the moral sense may be, and often are, oi more visibly complete. Ideally we can very great variety: It is these elements, distinguish them, and we can range them many and various in their character, and in an ascending order. We can separate contributed through the help and concurbetween different elements and different rence of many different faculties of the processes of thought, and in accordance mind, that men are really distinguishing with these distinctions we can assign to and dissecting when they think they are each of them a separate faculty of the analyzing the moral sense itself. What mind. We think of these separate facul- they do analyze with more or less success ties as being each specially apprehensive is not the moral sense, but the conditions of one kind of idea, or specially conduct- under which that sense comes to attach ing one kind of operation. ́Thus the its special judgments of approval or of reasoning faculty works out the process condemnation to particular acts or to parof logical sequence, and apprehends one ticular motives. truth as the necessary consequence of And this analysis of the conditions another. Thus the faculty of reflection under which the moral sense performs its passes in review the previous apprehen- work, although it is not the kind of analysions of the intellect, or the fleeting sug- sis which it often pretends to be, is nevergestions of memory and of desire, looks theless in the highest degree important, at them in different aspects, and submits for although the sense of obligation, or, them now to the tests of reasoning, and as it is usually called, the moral sense, now to the appreciations of the moral may be in itself simple, elementary, and sense. Thus, again, the supreme faculty incapable of reduction, it is quite possible of will determines the subject of investi- to reach conclusions of the most vital gation, or the direction of thought, or the interest concerning its nature and its functions by examining the circumstances ter in any action, so far as the individual which do actually determine its exercise, actor is concerned, apart from the meanespecially those circumstances which are ing and intention of the actor. The very necessary and universal facts in the expe. same deed may be good, or, on the conrience of mankind.

trary, devilishly bad, according to the There is, in the first place, one question inspiring motive of him who does it. The respecting the moral sense which meets giving of a cup of cold water to assuage us at the threshold of every inquiry re- suffering, and the giving it to prolong life specting it, and to which a clear and in order that greater suffering may be definite answer can be given. This ques- endured, are the same outward deeds, but tion is – What is the subject-matter of are exactly opposite in moral character. the moral sense? or, in other words, what in like manner, the killing of a man in is the kind of thing of which alone it battle and the killing of a man for robbery takes any cognisance, and in which alone or revenge, are the same actions; but the it recognizes the qualities of right and one may be often right, whilst the other wrong?

must be always wrong, because of the To this fundamental question one an- different motives which incite the deed. siver, and one answer only, can be given. Illustrations of the same general truth The things, and the only things, of which might be given as infinite in variety as the moral sense takes cognisance are the the varying circumstances and conditions actions of men. It can take no cogni- of human conduct. It is a truth perfectly sance of the actions of machines, nor consistent with the doctrine of an inde. of the actions of the inanimate forces of pendent morality. Every action of a vol. nature, nor of the actions of beasts, ex- untary agent has, and must have, its own cept in so far as a few of these may be moral character, and yet this character supposed to possess in a low and elemen- may be separate and apart from its rela. tary degree some of the characteristic tion to the responsibility of the individual powers of man. Human conduct is the man who does it. That is to say, every only subject matter in respect of which act must be either permitted, or forbidthe perceptions of the moral sense arise. den, or enjoined, by legitimate authority, They are perceptions of the mind which although the man who does it may be have no relation to anything whatever ignorant of the authority or of its comexcept to the activities of another mind mands. And the same proposition holds constituted like itself. For, as no moral good if we look upon the ultimate standjudgment can be formed, and no moral ard of morality from the utilitarian point perception can be felt, except by a moral of view. Every act must have its own agent, so neither can it be formed in re- relation to the future. Every act must spect to the conduct of any other agent be either innocent, or beneficent, or hurtwhich has not, or is not assumed to have, ful in its ultimate tendencies and results. a nature like our own - moral, rational Or, if we like to put it in another form, and free.

every act must be according to the har: And this last condition of freedom, mony of nature or at variance with that which is an essential one to the very idea harmony, and therefore an element of of an agency having any moral character, disorder and disturbance. In all these will carry us a long way on towards a senses, therefore, we speak, and we are farther definition of the subject matter on right in speaking, of actions as in themwhich the moral sense is exercised. It selves good or bad, because we so speak is, as we have seen, human conduct. But of them according to our own knowledge it is not human conduct in its mere out of the relation in which they stand to those ward manifestations, for the only moral great standards of morality, which are element in human conduct is its actuating facts, and not mere assumptions or even notive. If any human action is deter- mere beliefs. But we are quite able to mined not by any motive whatever, but separate this judgment of the act from the simply by external or physical compul. judgment which can justly be applied to sion, then no moral element is present at the individual agent. As regards him, all, and no perception of the moral sense the act is right or wrong, not according to can arise respecting it. Freedom, there our knowledge, but according to his own. fore, in the sense of exemption from such And this great distinction is universally compulsion, must be assumed as a condi- recognized in the language and (however tion of human action absolutely essential unconsciously) in the thoughts of men. to its possessing any moral character It is sanctioned, moreover, by supreme whatever. There can be no moral charac- l authority. The most solema prayer ever uttered upon earth was a prayer for the giving as to the singleness and purity of forgiveness of an act of the most enor- the alleged purpose which is good. We mous wickedness, and the ground of the know that the motives of men are so petition was specially declared to be that various and so mixed, that they are not those who committed it "knew not what always themselves conscious of that mothey did.”. The same principle which tive which really prevails, and we may avails to diminish blame, avails also to have often good reasons for our convicdiminish or to extinguish merit. We may tions that bad motives unavowed have justly say of many actions that they are really determined conduct for which good good in themselves, assuming, as we motives only have been alleged. Thus, naturally do, that those who do such ac- in the case of religious persecution, we tions do them under the influence of the may be sure that the lust of power and appropriate motive. But if this assump- the passion of resentment against those tion fails in any particular case, we can. wlio resist its ungovernable desires, have not and we do not, credit the actor with very often been the impelling motive, the goodness of his deed. If he has done where nothing but the love of truth has a thing which in itself is good in order to been acknowledged. And this at least compass an evil end, then, so far as he is may be said, that in the universal judg. concerned, the deed is not good, but bad. ment of mankind, actions which they reIt may indeed be worse in moral charac- gard as wrong have not the whole of that ter than many other kinds of evil deeds, wrongfulness charged against the doers and this just because of the goodness of them, in proportion as we really beusually attaching to it. For this good. lieve the agents to have been guided ness may very probably involve the double purely and honestly by their own sense guilt of some special treachery, or some of moral obligation. special hypocrisy; and both treachery and On the whole, then, we can determine or hypocrisy are in the highest degree im- define with great clearness and precision moral. It is clear that no action, how the field within which the moral sense can ever apparently benevolent, if done from alone find the possibilities of exercise, some selfish or cruel motive, can be a and that field is the conduct of men; good or a moral action.


by which is meant not their actions only, It may seem, however, as if the con- but the purpose, motive, or intention by verse of this oposition cannot be laid which the doing of these actions is dedown as broadly and as decidedly. There termined. This conclusion, resting on the are deeds of cruelty in abundance which firm ground of observation and experihave been done, ostensibly at least, and ence, is truthfully expressed in the wellsometimes, perhaps, really from motives known lines of Burns: comparatively good, and yet from which

The heart's aye the part aye an enlightened moral sense can never de.

Which makes us right or wrang. tach the character of wickedness and wrong. These may seem to be cases in And now it is possible to approach more which the motive does not determine the closely to the great central question of all moral character of the action, and in ethical inquiry: Are there any motives which our moral sense persists in con- which all men under all circumstances demning the thing done in spite of the recognize as good ? Are there any other motive. But if we examine closely the motives which, on the contrary, all men grounds on which we pass judgment in under all circumstances recognize as evil? such cases, we shall not, I think, find Are there any fundamental perceptions of them exceptions to the rule or law that the moral sense upon which the standard the purpose or intention of a free and vol. of right and wrong is planted at the first, untary agent is the only thing in which and round which it gathers to itself, by any moral goodness can exist, or to which the help of every faculty through which any moral judgment can be applied. In the mind can work, higher and higher the first place, we may justly think that conceptions of the course of duty ? the actors in such deeds are to a large In dealing with this question, it is a extent themselves responsible for the comfort to remember that we are in posfailure in knowledge, and for the defec- session of analogies deeply seated in the tive moral sense which blind them to the constitution and in the course of nature. evil of their conduct, and which lead It is quite possible to assign to intuition or them to a wrong application of some mo- to instinct the place and rank whiclı really tive which may in itself be good. And in belongs to it, and to assign also to what the second place, we may have a just nis-l is called experience the functions which


[ocr errors]

are unquestionably its own. There is no does not involve and depend upon the sense or faculty of the mind which does sense of obligation. There is no kind of not gain by education not one which is brotherhood or association for any purindependent of those processes of devel- pose which could stand without it. As a opment which result from its contact with matter of fact, therefore, and not at all as the external world. But neither is there a matter of speculation, we know that the any sense or faculty of the mind which moral sense holds a high place as one of starts unfurnished with some one or more the necessary conditions in the developof those intuitive perceptions with which ment of man's nature, in the improvement all education and all development must of his condition, and in the attainment of begin. Just as every exercise of reason that place which may yet lie before him must be founded on certain axioms which in the future of the world. There are are self-evident to the logical faculty, so other sentiments and desires which, being all other exercises of the mind must start as needful, are equally instinctive. Thus, from the direct perception of some rudi- the desire of communicating pleasure to mentary truths.

It would be strange others is one of the instincts which is as indeed if the moral faculty were any ex. universal in man as the desire of commuception to this fundamental law. This nicating knowledge. Both are indeed faculty in its higher conditions, such as branches of the same stem – offshoots we see it in the best men in the most from the same root. The acquisition of highly civilized communities, may stand knowledge to which we are stimulated by at an incalculable distance from its earli- the instinctive affections of curiosity and est and simplest condition, and still more of wonder, is one of the greatest of human from its lowest condition, such as we see pleasures, and the desire we have to comit in the most degraded races of mankind. municate our knowledge to others is the But this distance has been reached from great motive force on which its progress some starting point, and at that starting- and accumulation depend. The pleasure point there must have been some simple which all men take, when their disposiacts or dispositions to which the sense tions are good, in sharing with others of obligation was instinctively attached. their own enjoyments, is another feature And beyond all question this is the fact. quite as marked and quite as innate in All men do instinctively know what gives the character of man. And if there is pleasure to themselves, and therefore also any course of action to which we do in. what gives pleasure to other men. More- stinctively attach the sentiment of moral over, to a very large extent, the things approbation, it is that course of action which give them pleasure are the real which assumes that our own desires, and needs of life, and the acquisition or enjoy. our own estimates of good, are the standment of these is not only useful but ard by which we ought to judge of what essential to the well-being or even to the is due to and is desired by others. The very existence of the race. And as man social instincts of our nature must, there. is a social animal by nature, with social fore, naturally and intuitively indicate instincts at least as innate as those of the benevolence as a virtuous, and malevoant or the beaver or the bee, we may be lence as a vicious disposition; and, again, sure that there were and are born with our knowledge of what is benevolent and him all those intuitive perceptions and of what is malevolent is involved in our desires which are necessary to the growth own instinctive sense of what to us is and unfolding of his powers. And this good, and of what to us is evil. It is we know to be the fact, not only as a quite true that this sense may be comdoctrine founded on the unities of nature, paratively low or bigh, and consequently but as a matter of universal observation that the standard of obligation which is and experience. We know that without founded upon it may be elementary and the moral sense man could not fulfil the nothing more. Those whose own desires part which belongs to him in the world. are few and rude, and whose own estiIt is as necessary in the earliest stages of mates of good are very limited, must of the family and of the tribe, as it is in the course form an estimate correspondingly, latest developments of the State and of poor and scant of what is good for, and of the Church. It is an element without what is desired by, others. But this exwhich nothing can be done – without actly corresponds with the facts of human which no man could trust another, and, nature. This is precisely the variety in indeed, no man could trust himself. unity which its phenomena present. There is no bond of union among men There are no men of sane mind in whom even the lowest and the worst – which the moral sense does not exist; that is to


say, there are no men who do not attach /ation has been made, then the theory, or to some actions or other the sentiment of rather the portion of it which remains, approval, and to some other actions the does represent one very important aspect opposite sentiment of condemnation. On of a very complex truth. the other hand, the selection of the par- It will be well to examine a little more ticular actions to which these different closely the different ways in which these sentiments are severally attached is a two causes operate. selection immensely various; there being, In the first place, as regards the amhowever, this one common element in ail, biguities of language, a moment's consid

- that the course of action to which men eration will convince us that the word do by instinct attach the feeling of moral “utility” has, in its proper and primary obligation, is that course of action which signification, nothing whatever of the ethis animated by the feeling that their own ical meaning which is attached to it in the desires and their own estimate of good is utilitarian theory of morals. In its elethe standard by which they must judge mentary signification the useful is simply of what is due by them to others, and by the serviceable. It is curious to observe others to themselves.

that this last word has no ethical savor And here we stand at the common point about it. On the contrary, it is associated of departure from which diverge the two rather with the lower uses than with the great antagonistic schools of ethical phi-higher of conduct. If this be objected to losophy. On the one hand in the intuitive as preventing the two words from being and elementary character which we have really the equivalent of each other, then assigned to the sentiment of obligation, at least let it be recognized that utility considered in itself, we have the funda- must be divested of its ethical associa. mental position of that school which as- tions before it can be set up as an ethical serts an independent basis of morality; test. If utility is first assumed to be the whilst, on the other hand, in the elemen- equivalent of goodness, it becomes of tary truths which we have assigned to the course a mere play on words to represent moral sense as its self-evident apprehen- usefulness as the criterion of virtue. If sions, we have a rule which corresponds, we are to conduct our analysis correctly, in one aspect at least, to the fundamental we must expel from utility every adventi. conception of the utilitarian school. For tious element of meaning. The usefulthe rule which connects the idea of obliga. ness of a thing means nothing more than tion with conduct tending to the good of its conduciveness to some purpose. But others, as tested by our own estimate of it may be any purpose, morally good, what is good for ourselves, is a rule which or morally bad, or morally indifferent. clearly brings the basis of morality into The boot-jack, the thumb-screw, and the very close connection with the practical rack are all useful machines for the purresults of conduct. Accordingly, one of pose of producing torture on the victim, the ablest modern advocates of the utili- and for the purpose, too, of giving to the tarian system has declared that “in the torturers that pleasure or satisfaction golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth we read which wicked men find in tyranny or rethe complete spirit of the ethics of Utility. venge. The words “good” and “bad To do as you would be done by, and to are themselves often used in a secondary love your neighbor as yourself, constitute and derivative sense, which, like “uséthe ideal perfection of Utilitarian mor. ful,” may be destitute of any ethical meanals." *

ing A good thumb-screw would mean This may well seem a strange and al. an implement well adapted to produce most a paradoxical result to those who the most exquisite pain. A good torture have been accustomed to consider the may mean à torture well calculated to utilitarian theory not so much a low stand: gratify the savage sentiment of revenge. ard of morals, as an idea which is devoid in like manner, although not to the same altogether of that element in which the extent, the words “right" and " wrong very essence of morality consists. But it are often used with no ethical element of is a result due to these two causes — -first, meaning. The right way for a man who that under the fire of controversy utilita- wishes to commit suicide would be the rians have been obliged to import into the way to a precipice over which he desires meaning of their words much that does to throw himself. But the same way is not really belong to them; and secondly, the wrong way for hiin, if he wishes to to the fact, that when this essential alter- avoid the danger of falling. In this way

we may speak of the right way of doing * J. S. Mill: Utilitarianism, pp. 24, 25. the most wicked things. One most emi


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »